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Watching Whitethroats

Hard to spot a whitethroat in the heat-browned leaves

Watching Whitethroats

Finding a family of whitethroats (one of our many summer visitors from the warbler family) living next to the bird hide at Heather Farm has been a real treat! They’re actually behind the hide which makes it harder to hide from them. They, however, are very adept at staying hidden even when I can clearly hear them. Often the first clue is the tutting noise from one of the adults as they call the fledgelings out. Eventually one will make an appearance as I keep as still and silent as possible!

Whitethroat adult calling out the fledgelings

The next clue is the rustling and shaking in the brambles. The juveniles are in there somewhere! They eat a mix of insects and berries so are really enjoying feasting on the early blackberries. I watch the trail of movement through the brambles until one of the youngsters finally pops into view!

Fledgeling whitethroat eyeing up the berries

They don’t see me as a threat as I stay in the shadows of the hide, still and silent. Soon three fledgelings are bustling about on the brambles, before moving up into the branches of the three silver birches in this little grove. They really seem to enjoy the seeds of the birch trees! Two of these trees have been greatly affected by this summer’s heatwave. The seeds have matured early and the leaves have browned as the tree sheds them to conserve it’s dwindling water supply. The birds are easy to spot in the green leaves but utterly camouflaged against the browns, as you can see in my lead image!

Fledgeling whitethroat in the silver birch

Eventually the adults led their brood into the reeds near the boardwalks at the entrance to the wetlands centre. The reeds swayed and shook for a while to show their progress but they were soon well hidden from my sight or that of potential predators. I loved watching the little family and hope to see more of them before the end of the season. The previous morning I had attended a bird-ringing event at the centre, led by Surrey BTO, Horsell Common Preservation Society and The Thames Basin Heath Partnership. We had ringed lots of blackcaps, tits, reed warblers and wrens but the whitethroats had evaded us! It’s wonderful to see the success of this recently created nature reserve growing year on year. Today I’m sharing my camouflaged whitethroat as part of WexMondays.

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In These Burning Lands

Small Copper

In These Burning Lands

Wild Fire

In these burning lands
The only safe flame is the
One carried on wings

At Heather Farm wetlands centre on Horsell Common the grasses are reduced to dry, brown scrub. The waters are at the lowest I’ve ever seen. Flowers bloom and fade fast in this heat. There have been so many heath and grassland fires already this summer and I am very concerned about these precious habitats! It’s the Big Butterfly Count this week and while I am still seeing quite a good number of grassland specialists, like this small copper, I am worried about the laval plants that are so important for the next generation of butterflies. While the heat continues, please be very careful with naked flames, BBQ’s and cigarettes around parks, heaths, grassland and woodland. This is for the Fotospeed challenge and is dedicated to the fire-fighters helping to tackle these blazes across the UK.